Plato said, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” Shakespeare understood the power of music that is why he said, “If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it.” Treat the soul to good tunes while in Saint Louis— tagged the West Africa “jazz capital”. Saint Louis International Jazz Festival is the destination of de crème-de-la-crème of good tunes and music makers in Africa and beyond whenever it’s on.
The tradition of jazz goes back to the 1930s in St-Louis when music originating from Cuba could be heard on Senegalese radio. Actually, music has always been an integral aspect of Senegal’s heritage that has been passed down from generation to generation through the griots who are praise-singers. The jazz imported into Saint Louis in 1900 grew to become a full blown International Jazz Festival. It began in 1993 as an initiative of young Saint-Louis residents passionate about jazz in the French Cultural Centre in Saint Louis and the tourist office. The St. Louis Jazz Association organizes the event in collaboration with relevant governmental agencies and different international bodies.
Since it launched, no fewer than 250 globally known musicians have participated in the Festival. Some of them include: Grammy Award winning Senegalese musician Baba Maal, Manu Dibango, Abdullah Ibrahim, Pharoah Sanders, Jerry GONZALES, Youssou Ndour, Gilberto Gil, Liz MCCOMB, Wasis Diop, Ali Farka Toure, Richard BONA, Richard GALIANO, Roberto CIOTTI, Elvin Jones, Lucky PETERSON, Randy WESTON, Orchesta ARAGON and Femi Kuti to name a few. There’s no question as to why Saint-Louis International Jazz Festival is often referred to as one of the biggest and most important African festivals in terms of image, reputation and affluence.
For every star in attendance, the jazz festival seems to have a greater audience as thousands of festival goers from around the world troop into Saint Louis en masse to witness this event every year.
Twenty years after its inaugural edition however, Saint Louis International Jazz Festival has assumed new status. Beyond entertainment, this festival now provides the city of Saint Louis a strategic pulse for promoting its socio-cultural and economic development and tourism. It also serves as a platform for promoting jazz as a means of expression, offering young Senegalese and foreign musicians a beautiful plateau to showcase their talents and creations—need it be said that the festival facilitate the exchange of ideas between artists and actors!
The latest edition of Saint Louis International jazz festival was held between May 20 to 25 2015. As always, the festival’s popularity mobilized huge participation of both local and foreign artists and fans. In addition to Music concerts (Jazz, blues, gospel, hip-hop, mbalax, reggae), cultural activities, sports, fairs and exhibitions featured as novel additions to this year’s event.
Some of the specific innovative additions include the Taakussanu Ndar, traditional wrestling, Simb, as well as the forum on cardiovascular disease. The forum was a social responsibility as the organizers recognized the need to sensitize local populations about cardiovascular diseases which were becoming a scourge in the Saint-Louis region.
Artists who brought life to the 23rd edition include: Orchestra Baobab from Senegal, Omiri Mor (Israel), Woz Kaly (France-Senegal), Martin Reiter (Austria), Francesca De Fazi (Italy), Komani Jazz (South Africa), Baptiste Trontignon (France), Sandro Schneebeli (Switzerland), Wallace Roney (USA), and Malted Milk (France).
Usifo Mike-Alvin is a creative writer with a knack for budget traveling and adventure. He travels across Africa and reports for afrotourism.com